Eating out of the same bowl night after night can get pretty mundane, so why not give your cat a dose of stimulation by occasionally changing up the way that you feed her?
“Food puzzles or cat toys actually force a cat to work for their food,” says Dr. Shari Brown of Pittsburgh’s Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center.
Whether you’re challenging them to bat a bottle around or move a piece of cardboard to get their “prize,” here are two cat food puzzles for cats you can easily make at home:
Tic Tac Kitty
Keep your cat guessing which cup his meal is in with a fun twist on the classic game of Tic Tac Toe. Brown says the extra benefit of this game is that it gives cats an extra challenge while helping them to eat more slowly in the process.
“They have to figure out how to get the food, so it helps to keep them active and engaged,” she says.
- 1 muffin tin
- Wet or dry cat food (I used wet)
Cut out a cardboard square large enough to cover up an individual muffin cup on the muffin tin.
Use your first cardboard square as a template and cut the remaining squares the same size. Cut one square for every cup of the muffin tin, so if your tin has 12 cups, cut 12 squares total.
Using a spoon, place small portions of food into various cups of the muffin tray. For an extra challenge, fill a certain amount of muffin cups with food and leave others empty so your cat has to work harder to find her prize.
Place the cardboard squares over all of the cups in the muffin tray.
Feed your cat her meal in the toy instead of in her normal bowl. Watch her hunting instincts come to life as she sniffs around to see which cups have food in them and pushes the cardboard off each cup before eating the food inside.
Keep your cat’s mind fresh by letting her push around this slow-feeding DIY toy. As she pushes the bottle around with her paw, food will fall out and she will be rewarded with a tasty bite.
“The bottle method is a great way to get a cat active, especially if you have an inactive overweight cat,” says Brown. “By batting and having to manipulate the bottle around to get food, your cat is working for her food and burning calories.”
- 1 plastic bottle water (preferably a small one, I used 16.9 oz)
- X-ACTO Knife
- Dry cat food
Remove water from the bottle and peel the label off, then place the bottle upside down on a dish drying rack to let it thoroughly dry out.
Use the X-ACTO knife to cut 3 to 4 holes into the side of the bottle (the bigger the bottle, the more holes you will want). The holes should be large enough so that your cat’s dry food will be able to fall out of it as the bottle gets batted around, but not too large that the food will fall out too easily. The smaller the holes you make, the more of a challenge it will be for your cat to get the food out.
Fill the bottle with a serving of your cat’s food and feed her using the bottle instead of her usual dish.
Nicole Pajer is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, energetic Doberman, and rat terrier.